Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | December 23, 2012
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Help for Portland crash survivors slows
... Vaz charges that bureaucracy to blame for delay in assistance to children affected by Portland truck accident

Just under $1.4 million remain in accounts established to benefit the children who were affected by the truck accident which claimed 14 lives four years ago.

A special trust fund was set up by the Government following the accident, but last week survivors of the crash claimed it had collapsed.

However, the man who initiated the trust fund, West Portland Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz, has rejected this claim.

According to Vaz, the trust fund was started with donations and contributions totalling in the region of $5 million to help the almost 50 children who were impacted by the crash.

Received donations

He said, over the years, the fund received donations of $500,000 from former Prime Minister Bruce Golding through the Constituency Development Fund.

At present, the fund has a fixed deposit account with $820,000, a main bank account with $85,930 while an account operated by the Portland Parish Council has $491,000.

"So it is not fair to say the fund has collapsed," Vaz told The Sunday Gleaner.

"What is correct is that with the change of Government, the signatories to the account have changed and that has caused some delay in the disbursement," added Vaz, as he called on Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to give urgent attention to the matter.

"Now that this has been brought to public attention, I hope that the prime minister will give direction as we cannot allow the children to suffer because of bureaucracy. I know the $5,000 they receive from the fund each month is not enough but it helps with their lunch money and bus fares."

Vaz noted that outside of the financial contributions, several persons have worked with the children to help them deal with the trauma and to ensure that, as far as possible, their needs are met.

"I mean people like Mary Clarke, the former Children's Advocate, Marlene Miller of the Ministry of Labour & Social Security; the Portland Parish Council; Marion Hall of the Portland Poor Relief, who all went beyond the call of duty to offer assistance to the beneficiaries of this fund."

The MP said of the children who were beneficiaries under the fund, two have now moved on to tertiary institutions while one is a sixth-form student in a prominent high school.

"It is unfair to say that these children have been abandoned and forgotten and it is more unfair to the civil servants who have made the plight of these children their own. This fund was established for the children while the needs of the adults should be addressed by other state agencies," said Vaz.

The December 19, 2008, tragedy occurred when a truck plunged over a precipice in the Rio Grande Valley, Portland, while carrying persons to the Coronation Market in downtown Kingston.

Only seven persons survived the horrific accident.

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